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When a 3-time Olympian was murdered by his own students at Punjab University

When a 3-time Olympian was murdered by his own students at Punjab University

Md Imtiaz

Published: 25 Aug 2020 5:15 AM GMT

Once touted as the ‘world’s most feared penalty corner specialist’. Olympic champion Prithipal Singh’s fame was short-lived. Considered one of the most treasured hockey players of his generation, Singh was killed by his own students in broad daylight at the campus of a Punjab Agricultural University (PAU).

The triple Olympian was shot by two students in front of his office in broad daylight. Prithipal's murder had rocked entire Punjab and international hockey community in 1983 when the state would remain in news only due to activities of Khalistani militants.

The first hockey player to be decorated with Arjuna Award, Prithipal was a leading member of the Indian hockey team that had won gold medal in the 1956 Olympics (Melbourne); silver in 1960 Olympics (Rome) and bronze in 1968 Olympics (Mexico).

As a result of his consistent performance in tournaments abroad, Singh was given a chance to participate in the 1960 Italy Olympics. India reached the finals, but lost against arch-rivals Pakistan and had to settle for a silver medal. In the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Indian team under the captaincy of Charanjit Singh won the gold after defeating Pakistan in the finals. Of the 22 goals scored in the tournament, Prithipal scored as many as eleven.

After India finishing third in the 1968 Olympics and facing criticism, Singh opted for retirement. He then joined the Punjab Agricultural University and served as the director of sports as well as that of students’ welfare.

Little did anyone imagine that Singh would be murdered by students of his own university. In the morning of 20 May 1983, Singh’s body was pumped with bullets. The university was, however, not new to such murders. At least six people had already died on the campus before Singh as a result of rivalry between union groups.

Following Singh’s murder, university sources told India Today, “Strict disciplinarian methods and his crusade to clean the campus of toughs and trouble-makers brought him inevitably into a head-on clash with the PSU elements.” In 2015, a film was released based on his biography Prithipal Singh…A story.

His killers were never identified despite that police had booked 19 students of PAU for his murder. Punjab Students' Union (PSU) leader Pirthipal Singh Randhawa and footballer Piara Singh were killed by goons in 1979 and 1983, respectively. Students suspected that Prithipal, who was serving as the dean students' welfare (DSW) of PAU, had some role in their elimination.

Also read: Former hockey players demand Bharat Ratna for Major Dhyan Chand

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